High-speed rail lawsuit filed

HEMPSTEAD, Texas – The Waller County Sub-Regional Planning Commission filed suit in Travis District Court Wednesday against the Texas Department of Transportation for violation of state law that requires it to coordinate planning on the high-speed rail that has been proposed between Dallas and Houston, according to a news release from the Waller County judge, Carbett "Trey" J. Duhon III. 

According to the release, Texas' Local Government Code, a state statute, clearly states "In carrying out their planning and program development responsibilities, state agencies shall, to the greatest extent feasible, coordinate planning with commissions to ensure effective and orderly implementation of state programs at the regional level."

According to the release, however, in a letter dated May 13, 2016, TxDOT refused to work with the Commission stating it had been ordered by the Federal Rail Authority not to "participate in any coordination meetings."

This means TxDot, which is one of the largest state agencies in the nation, is now being told what to do by a federal agency in Washington, D.C. and it is complying the release stated. 

"It is unfortunate it has come to this, but it became clear that the Federal Railroad Administration, and now TxDOT, seem intent on keeping local governments such as Waller County and our municipalities completely out of the planning process. Without meaningful coordination, our community will suffer immediate and irreparable harm and that is totally unacceptable," Waller County Judge and WCSRPC President Trey Duhon said. 

According to the release, TxDOT is the lead Texas state agency working on the implementation of the high-speed rail project planned between Dallas and Houston. It's working under the oversight of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and both are developing an environmental impact statement (EIS) that is supposed to provide full and fair discussions of all significant impacts the high-speed rail will have on local communities.

The release also stated that the FRA has already preselected a route prior to completing the EIS, which is unlawful in itself, that will bulldoze directly through Waller County and the planning Commission's jurisdiction without allowing the citizens to have any say or input.

The Commission is asking the court to order the proper participation in the process before final decisions are made. 

"Once this opportunity for planning and participation is past, it will be lost irretrievably," Duhon said.